Odubel Herrera flipped his bat – of course he did – and watched his home run ball race toward left-center field at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon in a 5-2 win over Atlanta. It was the perfect exclamation point to a perfect inning on a perfect weekend.
Herrera’s homer followed home runs by Cesar Hernandez and Aaron Altherr as the Phillies hit back-to-back-to-back homers for the first time since 2008. The four-run eighth inning powered the Phillies to their fourth straight win and their first sweep of the season, and pushed their record to .500 for the first time since April 9.
Hernandez’s homer, which broke a 1-1 tie, was his fourth of the season after he hit just six all of last year. Altherr, who is making his case for a steady role, provided insurance. And Herrera brought the flair.
“There was a lot of energy,” Altherr said. “Especially after Odubel hit his home run, and then we had Franco up there. So everyone’s pulling for four in a row. A lot of energy after that. . . . I always knew we had a lot of talent on this team and could surprise some people. Hopefully, we can keep this roll going.”
The barrage provided what seemed to be a comfortable four-run lead for Hector Neris to protect in the ninth. The righthander, who seems to be the team’s closer, made it interesting. Neris allowed a run and loaded the bases with one out before retiring two straight batters to secure the team’s fourth straight win.
Zach Eflin pitched seven strong innings that looked to be all for naught as the Phillies had just four hits before their rally in the eighth. The righthander allowed one run, struck out three batters, and walked none in his second start of the season. Eflin retired the first 10 batters he faced and threw 89 pitches, 61 of themstrikes.
Eflin’s lone mistake was a homer by Matt Kemp in the seventh. He worked quickly and kept the Braves off balance with his sinker.
“I felt really good. Today I did a good job of getting ahead in the count and getting early contact,” Eflin said. “Trusting my sinker, and I stuck with that the whole game.”
Michael Saunders started the eighth inning with a pinch-hit double, putting the winning run in scoring position with no outs. Mackanin told Hernandez to hit the ball to the middle of the field, get a base hit, and move Saunders. Hernandez instead crushed a homer to right field.
“He did move the runner,” Mackanin deadpanned.
Altherr followed with a homer for his fourth RBI of the week as he excels in Howie Kendrick’s absence. Kendrick, who is on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, is out for two or three more weeks. Altherr ended last season as a starting outfielder but was shuffled to the bench a month before spring training when the team signed Saunders.
“I’m not really too worried about that,” Altherr said. “I’m just taking it day by day and taking advantage of the opportunity and show what I can do. Hopefully [Kendrick] gets back as soon as possible because he has a good bat, and we could always use him in the lineup.”
Herrera fouled off an 86-mph slider as he battled a full count after Altherr’s homer. The two previous batters had homered, and Herrera was not going away easily. The seventh pitch he saw was the one he homered on to left-center field.
Mackanin said Herrera “out of frustration really focused as hard as he could and didn’t give that at-bat away even though we had a lead.”
Herrera released all of that frustration with another signature bat flip. He tossed the bat with his right hand, allowing it to flip end over end before landing in the dirt. It was smooth as always.
“A 90 out of 100,” Herrera said when asked to grade his flip, leaving room for improvement on an otherwise perfect weekend.
Published at Mon, 24 Apr 2017 05:31:15 +0000